Friday, June 29, 2018

Review: Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season
Lauren K. Denton
Published April 3, 2018
Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in southern Alabama, have decided to put life’s disappointments behind them. At least in theory. Ty manages their herd of dairy cows, while Betsy busies herself with the farm’s day-to-day operations and tries to forget the longing for motherhood set deep in her heart. But when Betsy’s free-spirited younger sister Jenna drops her young daughters off at the farm to attend a two-week art retreat in Florida, Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble.

As those two weeks stretch much farther into the hot Alabama summer, Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world and revel in a home that’s suddenly filled with the sound of laughter and life. Meanwhile, record heat promises to usher in the most active hurricane season in decades.

Four hundred miles away, Jenna is fighting her own battles. She’d once been free to travel and pursue a career in photography, but all that changed with the appearance of two pink lines on a plastic stick and a boyfriend who hit the road. At Halcyon art retreat, she finally has the time and energy to focus on her photography. As the summer continues, she wonders how her rediscovered passion can fit in with the life she’s made back home with her two children.

When Hurricane Ingrid aims her steady eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that could affect both her and her children’s futures, and Betsy and Ty find themselves protecting their beloved farm as well as their own hearts. - from Goodreads
Betsy and Ty Franklin run a dairy farm in Alabama, and although they enjoy their lives, having a child is one dream that has so far not worked out for them.  In Nashville, Betsy's sister Jenna is a single mom to Addie and Walsh; her dream of pursuing photography has been on the backburner for years, until she is given the opportunity to attend an artists' retreat in Florida.  Leaving her children with Betsy and Ty, Jenna heads to Florida.

The writing drew me into the story almost immediately.  It's warm, inviting, and comforting.  I felt transported to both the Franklin Dairy Farm and the Halcyon Art Retreat.  I honestly got lost in the settings in this book, and that doesn't happen often. 

At first I had reservations about Jenna; I thought maybe she would be kind of flaky, just taking off on a whim to try something new.  But she wasn't; she really surprised me.  Photography was something she really enjoyed and was good at, but it kind of fell by the wayside when she had her daughters.  I appreciated that she wanted to do the art retreat not only for herself and her creativity, but for her daughters, to show them that she was going after her dreams and they could, too, someday.  She wanted to see if she could build a better life for them, not just as a coffee shop manager, but by pursuing something she loved.  Although it was heavy-handed at times, I thought there were some good insights about the struggles mothers, especially single mothers, face feeling like they have to choose between their children and their careers or other passions.

I liked Betsy, as well.  Her life hasn't turned out quite the way she imagined, as the wife of a dairy farmer and facing a struggle with infertility.  Her relationship with her sister has cooled a bit over the years, but she would still do anything for Jenna, even take in her children for several weeks as Jenna attends the retreat.  I could really feel Betsy's struggles with her nieces - she loves them, but can she really take care of them?  She questions what kind of mother she would be, while at the same time, it made her pine even more for children of her own.  I loved that Ty was a calming force in her life, solid and steady, and didn't pressure her.  My one quibble with Betsy is that I consistently had a picture of an older woman in my head, when in actuality she was only 30.  I don't know why, she just felt older than her years. 

I did think the pace of the book was a little slow, and sometimes felt repetitive, like the characters just kept experiencing the same things over and over.  I also thought the author was a little heavy-handed in pushing forth some of the themes of the book, but it didn't really take away from my enjoyment of the story too much.  I loved getting to know these characters and watching them grow and come together.

4 stars 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Bellewether

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases!

Susanna Kearsley
Expected publication date: August 7, 2018
Some houses seem to want to hold their secrets.

It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.

When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.

Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.

Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.

Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story...or the whole truth. - from Goodreads
I haven't read any of Susanna Kearsley's books yet, but I have two on my TBR and they sound so good!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: I Can't With These Series

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is series we've given up on or don't plan to finish.  I have a bad habit of starting series and not finishing them, either because I just forget about them, lose interest, whatever.  Here are some series I'm giving up on:

Red Rising: I recently finished the first book, and it was kind of a slog for me.  I felt like I was doing a lot of skimming and the world didn't really make sense to me.

The Royals: The first book, Paper Princess, just felt too trashy to me and I have no desire to continue with the series.

Ravenspire: The Shadow Queen was bland and uninspired, so although the next book delves into a new fairytale, I don't have high hopes.

The 5th Wave: The first book was perfectly fine, but I don't see a need to continue.

Dividing Eden: Even though this is only a duology, and part of me wants to complete it just because it's only one other book, the first installment was repetitive and scattered.

Red Queen: Mare is one of the worst characters ever, and I'm tired of her.

Three Dark Crowns: This series just keeps getting longer and longer, and for me the writing is just not good enough to want to continue.

The Great Library: Although I actually kind of enjoyed Ink and Bone, it had so much going on that it made me tired just reading it, and I'm not dying to know what happens next.

Dorothy Must Die: Considering I didn't even make it through the first book, there's little reason for me to continue with this series.

Me Before You: This is the only outlier in the group.  I loved Me Before You, and I thought it ended perfectly.  I don't need to know what happens to Lou next, I already had hope for her.  I worry that if I read the next two books, and they aren't as good as the original, the magic will be lost.

Are you giving up on any of these series?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Mid-Year Goals & Challenge Check-In

Since this year is just about half over (already??!), I thought it would be a good time to check in on the reading and blogging goals I set at the beginning of the year, plus the challenges I've been taking part in.

Blogging Goals
  1. Participate in at least two reading challenges. Pass!  I'm participating in two year-long challenges (and will be doing a summer challenge), and I'll recap those below.
  2. Come up with new or different ways to present our travels. So far this year I've done two travel posts related to our trips to Las Vegas and Chicago.  I'm hoping the weather starts cooperating and we can get in some hikes.  I feel like I need to brainstorm a bit more and also decide how much I want to showcase posts like this on the blog.
  3. Learn more about the technical side of blogging.  Fail!  I don't know why I added this as a goal.
  4. Start doing monthly recaps.  Pass!  I work on the monthly recaps a little bit all month long, and so far it's been really fun to put them together.
Reading Goals:
  1. Read or reread at least six classics.  So far I've read three classics, so I'm right on track with this goal.
  2. Read at least one nonfiction book per month.  Pass!  I've read 13 nonfiction books so far, at least one every month except April (and since I barely read anything in April, I'm not counting that as a failure!).
  3. Listen to more audiobooks.  Pass!  I've been listening to audiobooks in the car during my work commute, and it usually takes me about a week or two to get through one book.  One thing that's really been helping my audiobook and nonfiction reading goals is that I've been combining the two and listening to a lot of celebrity memoirs.  I've listened to over 71 hours of audio so far this year.

Beat the Backlist 2018 is hosted by NovelKnight.  I chose 30 titles to read for this challenge.  So far I've read 16 titles from my challenge TBR, so I'm right on track!  Apparently I have a lot of backlist titles on my TBR, because I've also read 14 other older books that weren't even on my challenge list.

The 2018 Nonfiction Reading Challenge is hosted by Doing Dewey.  I decided to do this challenge to help me with my goal of reading more nonfiction this year.  I made a tentative list of books I'd like to read.  While I'm not doing so great with the books I initially picked (a couple DNFs, etc.), I've been reading and reviewing quite a bit of nonfiction this year and really enjoying it.  As I mentioned above, I've read 13 nonfiction titles so far this year. 
How are you doing on your goals and challenges?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Backlist Mini-Reviews: The Bethany Chase Edition

The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase (2015)

Sarina is an architect in a long-term relationship with Noah.  She's sure a proposal is coming soon, but first the two have to get through Noah's year-long work assignment in Argentina.  Right in the middle of that, Sarina's one-night-stand from eight years ago, Eamon, comes back to town.  He hires Sarina to remodel his house, but could there be something more between them?

I enjoyed the writing in this novel; it's easy to read and approachable.  It felt like having a conversation with a friend.  However, I didn't care for most of the characters.  Eamon is presented as too good to be true, and the way Sarina justifies certain things when it comes to him didn't sit well with me.  Also, the way Eamon demanded that Sarina break up with Noah was off-putting.  I felt bad for Noah at times; he was so in love with Sarina and would do anything for her, but at the same time, there were issues in their relationship that couldn't be overlooked.  I was often exasperated with the characters and how they were acting, but then it hit me how realistic it was - so many of us play petty games in relationships, we refuse to talk about our feelings or be honest with someone because we think we know how they will react.  We just don't communicate, and that's exactly what these characters were doing, although it went on way too long.  As much as I disliked Eamon and Sarina sometimes, it was Sarina's stepfather John that made it worth it for me.  He was such a sweetheart of a guy; you could feel how much he loved Sarina and was proud of her.  I loved how close they were, even though Sarina's mother had passed away years before.  3 stars

Results May Vary by Bethany Chase (2016)

When Caroline finds out that her husband (and high school sweetheart) Adam has been having an affair with a man, her world is turned upside down.

Finding out your spouse has cheated on you is devastating, and Caroline feels even more betrayed to find out Adam has been sleeping with a man.  Has he been lying to her their whole marriage?  Can she forgive him and move on?  Results May Vary touches on many deep subjects, but it never felt too heavy.  Caroline was a very relatable character.  She is devastated and ready to leave Adam, but on more than one occasion, she thinks perhaps she is being rash.  She and Adam have shared so much of their lives, and does she really want to re-enter the dating world?  Thankfully, she was surrounded by family and friends who helped her.  I loved her sister, Ruby - although she could seem a bit flighty, she also knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to work hard to get it.  I wanted more of Adam in the story; maybe a chapter or two from his POV could have helped me understand him and his motivations better.  As the book went on, and the secrets kept adding up, I liked him less and less.  He seemed like too much of a smooth talker.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, its meditations on marriage and how well anyone can really know their spouse, and the straightforward writing style.  4 stars

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Other Side of Lost

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases!

The Other Side of Lost
Jessi Kirby
Expected publication date: August 7, 2018
Girl Online meets Wild in this emotionally charged story of girl who takes to the wilderness to rediscover herself and escape the superficial persona she created on social media.

Mari Turner’s life is perfect. That is, at least to her thousands of followers who have helped her become an internet starlet. But when she breaks down and posts a video confessing she’s been living a lie—that she isn’t the happy, in-love, inspirational online personality she’s been trying so hard to portray—it goes viral and she receives major backlash. To get away from it all, she makes an impulsive decision: to hike the entire John Muir trail. Mari and her late cousin, Bri, were supposed to do it together, to celebrate their shared eighteenth birthday. But that was before Mari got so wrapped up in her online world that she shut anyone out who questioned its worth—like Bri.

With Bri’s boots and trail diary, a heart full of regret, and a group of strangers that she meets along the way, Mari tries to navigate the difficult terrain of the hike. But the true challenge lies within, as she searches for the way back to the girl she fears may be too lost to find: herself. - from Goodreads
I think we can all relate to trying to portray the perfect life on social media, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Mari recovers and grows.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: My Summer TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is books to read by the pool or at the beach, or in my case, just my plain old summer TBR!  Here are just some of the books I hope to get to this summer:

Have you read any of these?  Where should I start?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Haul #1

Guys, this is my first book haul post!  I've really cut down on the number of books I've been buying in recent years, so I don't normally have a lot to show, but the Project Linus chapter we work with was doing a Barnes & Noble fundraiser a few weeks ago, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to finally use some of my gift cards and support one of my favorite charities at the same time!



Have you read any of these?  Where should I start first?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Review: Hotel on Shadow Lake

Hotel on Shadow Lake
Daniela Tully
Published April 10, 2018
When Maya was a girl in Germany, her grandmother was everything to her: teller of magical fairy tales, surrogate mother, best friend. Then, shortly after Maya’s sixteenth birthday, her grandmother disappeared without a trace, leaving Maya with only questions to fill the void.

Twenty-seven years later, her grandmother’s body is found in a place she had no connection to: the Montgomery Resort in upstate New York. How did she get there? Why had she come? Desperate for answers, Maya leaves her life in Germany behind and travels to America, where she is drawn to the powerful family that owns the hotel and seemingly the rest of the town.

Soon Maya is unraveling secrets that go back decades, from 1910s New York to 1930s Germany and beyond. But when she begins to find herself spinning her own lies in order to uncover the circumstances surrounding her grandmother’s death, she must decide whether her life and a chance at true love are worth risking for the truth. - from Goodreads
Maya's grandmother Martha disappears from Germany soon after Maya leaves for a trip to the United States.  Twenty-seven years later, out of the blue, Martha's body is found in upstate New York, near the Montgomery Resort.  Maya travels to the hotel to find out what happened to her grandmother and why she was found in this place.

Based on stories from the author's grandmother's life, Hotel on Shadow Lake is part mystery, part love story, and part family drama.  The story is told from the third-person POV of three main characters, and each had a slightly different feel.  When we first meet Martha, it is in late 1930s Germany, as the Nazi party is coming to power.  Martha is appalled by what is already happening in Germany, but her brother Wolfgang is an ardent supporter.  Then, the story switches to Maya's POV; while the writing in Martha's section felt sparse and almost utilitarian, Maya's section has a bit more heart and emotion.  There is a third main character, but I don't want to give too much of the story away (although I did figure out the twist pretty early on)!

When Maya goes to the Montgomery Resort to find out what ties her grandmother had to the hotel and the family that ran it, we find out that her grandmother was murdered, many years ago.  At times the story felt a bit over-dramatic, like the author was trying for a creepy feel, but it didn't really work.  Maya didn't always come across as the most competent character, either.

Weaved throughout the story are also a fairy tale that Martha told Maya as a child, some letters, and a gossipy history of the Montgomery family.  These elements helped add depth to the story, although sometimes it was a bit confusing trying to keep all the various generations of Montgomerys straight.  The dialogue at times felt stilted, but the descriptions of upstate New York and the hotel were beautiful and made me want to visit.  I liked the way the dual timelines came together, as well.  Overall, I enjoyed the story, but it didn't make a huge impression on me.

3.5 stars

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Masterpiece

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases!

The Masterpiece
Fiona Davis
Expected publication date: August 7, 2018
For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public's disdain for a "woman artist." Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded--even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter--Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they'll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay's life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece--an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931. - from Goodreads
I love the book's focus on a historic NYC landmark!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Guest Blogger: Literary Baby Names

Today I am so happy to have my sister Michele as a guest blogger - I thought it would be fun for her to share the story of how she and her husband came up with their daughter's name!

Naming your new baby is one of the most important and nerve-wracking decisions of early parenthood. Strong contenders must work for a toddler and for your future lawyer/doctor/computer engineer. You may want something unique, but you don’t want family and friends to say “What were they thinking?” behind your back. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and it probably won’t surprise readers of this blog to know that ours came from literature. 

When we found out we were expecting a baby girl, we put our thinking caps on. My husband wanted something a little different, so we scoured baby name sites. We could not agree on anything!  One weekend we were watching a Harry Potter movie marathon on TV. As a joke, I suggested the name Luna to my husband, since he was always making comments about how Luna Lovegood is the character he would most like to be friends with.  

To my chagrin, he loved it.  At first, I was worried it was a little too different and that people would think it was weird.  However, when I thought about the character who inspired it, I began to fall in love. Luna Lovegood is such an amazing character in the Harry Potter books.  She is quirky and dreamy, but also brave, confident, loyal, and intelligent. These are all qualities that I hope my Luna exhibits one day.  
Let the Scarletts, Atticus’s and Lunas of the world unite! Do you know anyone who has drawn inspiration from literature to name their little one?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Review: A Lady's Guide to Selling Out

A Lady's Guide to Selling Out
Sally Franson
Published April 10, 2018
A brilliant young woman navigates a tricky twenty-first-century career—and the trickier question of who she wants to be—in this savagely wise debut novel in the tradition of The Devil Wears Prada.        
Casey Pendergast is losing her way. Once a book-loving English major, Casey lands a job at a top ad agency that highly values her ability to tell a good story. Her best friend thinks she’s a sellout, but Casey tells herself that she’s just paying the bills—and she can’t help that she has champagne taste.

When her hard-to-please boss assigns her to a top-secret campaign that pairs literary authors with corporations hungry for upmarket cachet, Casey is both excited and skeptical. But as she crisscrosses America, wooing her former idols, she’s shocked at how quickly they compromise their integrity: A short-story writer leaves academia to craft campaigns for a plus-size clothing chain, a reclusive nature writer signs away her life’s work to a manufacturer of granola bars.

When she falls in love with one of her authors, Casey can no longer ignore her own nagging doubts about the human cost of her success. By the time the year’s biggest book festival rolls around in Las Vegas, it will take every ounce of Casey’s moxie to undo the damage—and, hopefully, save her own soul.

Told in an unforgettable voice, with razor-sharp observations about everything from feminism to pop culture to social media, A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out is the story of a young woman untangling the contradictions of our era and trying to escape the rat race—by any means necessary. - from Goodreads
I have to admit, although I was interested by the blurb, the cover is really what drew me to this book.  I loved the hot pink and the fun typography.  Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to save this book for me.

Casey is a top performer at an advertising agency when her boss approaches her to work on a new project: recruiting authors and writers to become spokespeople and content creators for companies and brands in need of some good PR or new ideas.  The authors generally sign on rather quickly, but Casey begins to feel uncomfortable with the campaigns, worrying that these literary idols of hers are "selling out."  Combined with a fragile romance with one of her recruits and a fracture in the relationship with her best friend, Casey reaches her breaking point.

I had some major issues with this book:
  • Honestly, I don't think I got the gist of the book.  We see celebrities in car commercials and social media influencers with sponsored posts all the time, so I didn't quite get why it was considered "selling out" for writers to do the same thing.  It's inferred in the book that authors are an untapped market in this regard and that they are often awkward loners addicted to their craft who wouldn't stoop so low - but anyone can be bought if the price is right.  But to me, all of the writers Casey approached are adults, who knowingly entered these contracts and often for very good reasons - to get money to help an ill loved one, to start a charitable fund, or even just fund their own retirement.  I don't think they were compromising their integrity by posting about pens, granola bars, or tracksuits, just as I don't think Casey was "selling out" by working in advertising - I mean, wouldn't her English degree be an asset in a job where words are paramount?  It just didn't seem like a big deal to me; none of the products or brands were embarrassing, and if you could easily make some money that might make your life a little more comfortable or give you the freedom to do things like write more, why wouldn't you?
  • Casey's friend Susan was basically just a big stereotype - she's an aspiring author who tries way too hard to show that she doesn't approve of Casey's job, or the "establishment," or whatever.  She's always low on money and her apartment is a wreck because... she's an artist?
  • There were three instances of sexual assault/harassment, including one that the crux of the story relies on.  It was infuriating to see how everything was turned around on Casey and the slut-shaming and even death threats that followed.
  • The book felt very scattered.  Sometimes it felt like the main character was going off on tangents that took me out of the story.  I feel like the author was trying to make some commentary on artistic integrity and finding one's identity (seems to be a popular thing these days), but it didn't feel like it came together.
But, there were some things I liked:
  • The book felt thoroughly modern, from the rampant use of social media to (very unfortunately) the sexual harassment issues.
  • Casey was often very relatable.  She's in her late twenties, working at a job she's really good at but maybe doesn't think is her dream job.  She's always seeking someone's approval and has jealousy issues.  She was over-the-top at times, but I could understand her.
  • These characters loved to read!  Casey and Susan constantly share book recommendations and their heroes are authors.  It was really nice to see characters who enjoy books and reading.
2.5 stars

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Summer Wives

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Summer Wives
Beatriz Williams
Expected publication date: July 3, 2018
New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast . . .
In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.
But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.
Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a na├»ve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island. -from Amazon
Beatriz Williams is one of my favorite authors; she really captures a setting so well, so I can't wait to see what she does in this new book!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Quotables #9

Why it speaks to me: I love the spirit of volunteerism that this quote speaks to.  It doesn't matter if your efforts don't amount to huge changes - every little bit helps.  And it's better to at least try than do nothing at all.

Why it speaks to me: Sometimes it is easier for me to interact with people online than in the real world!  This quote is definitely for the shy and introverted among us.

Why it speaks to me: I love the confidence in this quote, and it definitely places the impetus on ourselves to be the person we want to be, instead of just letting things happen to us.  It puts us in charge of our own destiny.  I like the idea that we can change things about ourselves and not just settle because "that's the way I am."

Which of these is your favorite?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Month in Review: May 2018

Compared to April, May was a pretty quiet month around here.  We did a LOT of yard work, and now I'm obsessed with trying to keep my potted plants alive.  We saw Deadpool 2 and loved it; we also watched The Week Of on Netflix, which is a comedy about the week leading up to a wedding and stars Adam Sandler.  People like to knock Adam Sandler, but for some reason, I seem to love all of his movies!  Speaking of weddings, I got up early and watched the royal wedding; while I wasn't crazy about Meghan Markle's dress, I loved all the flowers (especially the fact that Harry picked flowers for her bouquet himself!) and the weather looked beautiful.  We had a big BBQ on Memorial Day, and everyone had a great time - we also had our first houseguest when my SIL stayed over during her visit to NJ.

The Books
The Posts and Reviews

The Posts I Loved

Did you watch the royal wedding?  What was your favorite book of the month?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Backlist Mini-Reviews: Little Mermaid Retellings

Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon (2011)

A retelling of the classic Little Mermaid story that stays very close to the original fairytale, Mermaid is the story of Lenia, who rescues Prince Christopher from his sinking ship.  She leaves him in the care of Princess Margrethe, who she believes to be a nun at a nearby convent.  Margrethe and Christopher's kingdoms are at war, but she believes she can heal the rift by marrying him.  However, Lenia also goes to great lengths to get back to the man she rescued and has fallen in love with.

I didn't expect that this "retelling" would be so close to the original classic fairytale; there were only a few slight changes.  However, I think those changes were enough to make it feel new.  The story had a moody and gothic feel, which I loved; this wasn't the happy, music-filled Disney story from my childhood (although I love that one, too!).  It didn't shy away from pain and sadness.

Although I didn't really care for the prince, I enjoyed the relationship between Margrethe and Lenia.  I was rooting for both of them, although I didn't know how they could both "win" - they were rivals, but there was no villain here.  Lenia was fighting for her life and salvation, and Margrethe was fighting to save the people of her kingdom.  4 stars

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler (2015)

After an accident in her native Tobago leaves her without a voice, Elyse flees to Oregon with friends.  She spends the summer falling in love with Christian and trying to recover from her accident.

I think this is going to be a case of "it's me, not you."  This book has such good reviews on Goodreads, so I was excited to read it, but unfortunately I wasn't wowed by it.  The writing got very poetic and lyrical at times, which isn't my favorite kind of writing.  The pacing felt very slow, and the book felt so long.  It didn't seem like a whole lot happened for the page count.  I couldn't really get behind Christian as a character; although we are told many times he is a player, when he meets Elyse he seems to fall for her and become devoted very quickly, so those things seemed at odds.  Elyse's accident is teased throughout the whole book, and we finally find out what happened near the very end.  I wish we had found out sooner, especially since it involved her twin sister and was the reason she left the island.  The payoff wasn't enough.

However, I did like Elyse's growth throughout the book.  Her accident caused her to become very withdrawn, but she slowly realized that even though she lost her voice, she didn't have to lose herself.  She comes out of her shell as the book goes on.  I also liked her girlfriends; they seemed very fun and supportive.  The small-town Oregon setting was so lovely and atmospheric, and it made me want to visit this little beach community.  3 stars